ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Crimean Declaration of Independence

A Challenge for International Law?

In order to assess the legal validity of the Crimean declaration of independence from Ukraine, one should delve into intricacies of secession and the right to self-etermination under international law. The right to self-determination was initially thought to be applicable in the colonial contexts. However, in the neocolonial situations the right often collides with the territorial integrity of the sovereign states.

On 11 March 2014, the Supreme Council of Crimea and the S­evastopol City Council adopted a joint resolution unilaterally declaring i­ndependence from Ukraine. The declaration cited the precedent of Kosovo to justify the move to secede, and at the outset, expressed desire to become a part of Russia following a referendum slated for 16 March 2014. Most western governments were quick to reject it as a violation of international law as well as a derogation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Crimean move for secession is not an aberration. It resembles similar unilateral declaration of independence by Rhodesia from the United Kingdom (UK) in 1965 and the tailor-made declaration of independence by Kosovo from Serbia.

In a remarkable advisory opinion on 22 July 2010, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) expressed the view that K­osovo’s declaration of independence did not constitute a violation of inter­national law.1 Even if the ICJ was seen as resorting to tight between legal and p­olitical aspects of such secession from established states, the opinion came to be construed as providing legitimacy to secessionist movements around the globe. In fact, the Declaration of Independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol has explicitly referred to the Kosovo advisory opinion. In turn, it raises larger question for international law to grapple with this coming challenge in this century.

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